How Should the Books of the Old Testament Be Ordered?

In The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (esp. 181–234), Roger Beckwith has convincingly demonstrated that the oldest arrangement of the OT is the tripartite division into Law, Prophets, and Writings. This arrangement is reflected in the words of Jesus in Luke 24:44,

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

This statement indicates that when Jesus thought of the Old Testament, he thought of three groups of books. These three groups of books broadly match the ordering in printed Hebrew Bibles today: Torah (Law), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). This is the basis of the acronym TaNaK (Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim—a list of the books is here). Ancient evidence for this tripartite division of the OT is also found in the prologue to the apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus, in the text found among the Dead Sea Scrolls known as 4QMMT, and in the Babylonian Talmud’s Baba Bathra 14b.

Another indication that Jesus thought of the OT in these terms is his statement in Matthew 23:34–36 paralleled in Luke 11:49–51. In these texts Jesus speaks of “the blood of all the prophets . . . from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah . . .” This seems to be Jesus’ way of referring to all the martyrs in the OT, from start to finish. The murder of Abel is near the beginning in Genesis 4, and the murder of Zechariah is near the end in 2 Chronicles 24. Jesus’ statement only works, though, if Chronicles is near the end of the OT. In the tripartite division of the OT into Law, Prophets, and Writings, Chronicles is in the last section, the Writings. The order of the OT books used in modern English translations makes it difficult to understand what Jesus was talking about.

Via: Dr. Jim Hamilton